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Something about dance
Svarajati and Varnam 
16th-Oct-2011 08:05 pm

Before Varna occupied the place, Svarajathi played the important role. Svarajatis are are of two kinds. One serving as a vocalise and the other used in dancing.

Vocal Svarajati had Pallavi, Anupallavi and or more charanams. Some of them do not have Anupallavi, as we find in the structure of a keertana with Samashti Charana. The theme of the song may be either devotional, heroic or amorous. Since a passage of jathis (rhythmic solfeg gio) was originally an inegral part, this composition tightly acquired the name 'svarajathi'. It contains swara (musical tone), jathi and padas (words). Some of svarajathis are available today do not contain jathis, but still retain the same name.

The second type of svarajathi was used in dancing, until Padavarna replaced it. It adheres to a great extent , to the lakshana of Prabandha consisting of Svara (musical note), Biruda (small word used for exclamation, such as 'O', 'Ha'), Pada (lyrics), Patha (rhythmic solfa syllable) and Tala (rhythmic structure). Only 'Tenaka' (words like 'Tana Tana') is missing. The structure of Svarajathi is almost akin to the Padavarna. Pallavi, Anupallavi, Muktayisvara (some call this 'Chittasvara'). Ettugada (also called 'Charanam') and ettugada svaras, with lyrics for all these. The only distinction between Svarajathi and Padavarna is that the former is interspersed with Jathis, which is absent in the latter.

'Varna' means 'color', some scholars relate the word to 'Varnana' (description). Description of Raga, prescribing its lakshana was done in earlier times, only through a geetam and hence it came to be called as "Lakshana geetam". Perhaps, due to its inadequate nature to portray all the possible and admirable combinations and colors of a raga, the Varna took its birth. Varna took shape to project all 'sancharas' of a raga, with various shades, in a more elaborate manner. The constituents prescribed for a Varna, namely, Arohi (ascending order of notes), Avarohi (descending order of notes), Sthayi )resting or elongation of the note) and Sanchari (movements of the note) are all found in musical portion of Varna.

Varna in general has five divisions:

Poorvaranga (first section)

1. Pallavi - the beginning section

2. Anupallavi - the section that follows the Pallavi

3. Muktayisvara - a set of svara phrases appended to the anupallavi

Uttaranga (latter section)

4. Ettugada or Ettugada pallavi - the short lyrical line, found after the muktayisvara, but rendered separately

5. Ettugadasvaras - few sets of svara passages that follow Ettugada pallavi. At the end if every cycle of ettugadasvaras, ettugada pallavi is rendered.

Pallavi has some statement in the nature of a prayer or request, while Anupallavi continues the statement by supposing the statement of the Pallavi and addresses the deity or the patron, as the case may be.

Ettugada pallavi shortly indicated as "Ettugada" may be compared to the Charana of kriti or keertana. Sometimes it is mentioned as "Upapallavi" or Chitta pallavi. In Telugu and Kannada 'Ettigada' means 'commencement', 'position of attack'. King Shahji substituted the word "Charana" with "ettugada" in some of his compositions, that was later adopted by varna composers. The piece of lyric used in Ettugada is comparatively short and mostly, has incomplete meaning or may compliment to the statement found in the Pallavi and Anupallavi.

Muktayisvara is indicated as 'chittasvara' bu some. Chittasvaras with or without Sahityas are used n kriti to add color, serve as complemental, not compulsory part. They may composed by composer or added later on by other singers. In Varna Muktayisvara is a must. 'Muktayi' means 'finish', it is concluding portion of Poorvaranga. In Tanavarna Muktayisvara may hava sahitya or not.

The set if svara passages that follow the ettugada are called 'ettugada svaras' to differentiate them from the muktayisvara.

In initial stage of its birth, Varna had one more section called 'Anubandha' (appendix), rendered after all the ettugada svara passages (for ex, varnam Viriboni has this section).

The content of Varna may be found in the wordings and its underlying theme. It may possess aither devotion or love or in praise of a patron. The aim of the composer is to portray the raga in all its brilliant hues and shades.

Svara patterns used in tanavarna adhere to the 'Tanam' type and hence it gained that name. It enables a practitioner to make his voice cultured to execute any type of Gamaka, at any desired speed.

Padavarna is used only for dancing purpose. It is always rendered in a slow tempo and hence is called 'Chaukavarna' (slow varna). This is replica of tanavarnam in form, but every svara passage has its iwn sahitya. Sometimes padavarna may contain jatis, then it's called 'padajati varna' which is nothing but svarajati. Padavarnas never admit excessive gamakas, nor loaded with sangatis (embellishments).

Since the padavarna is a product of feudal times, its theme is based on Bhakti and Sringara, as found in Padams. The methods to approach God are many, Madhura bhava or Bhakti Sringara is one of them. Vipralamba Sringara (opposite to Sambhoga Sringara) arises pangs of separation and innumerable feelings and emotions, expressed in poetry. That's why this type of Sringara is more employed as theme of padavarnas.


"Varna Swarajati" by B.M.Sundaram, Saraswathi Mahal Library, Tanjavoor

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